Aby-a-Day – May 18: Mother Goose story

Living next to Fort Point Channel is interesting.

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We have a little salt water ecosystem right in our back yard. I’ve seen cormorants, grebes, swans, ducks and herons in the water at one time or another. But the most common waterbird is the Canada goose.

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Just try getting a photo without a goose or two in it somewhere!

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Jacoby is used to them. He’s been around them since he was a kitten; to him, they’re no different than the trains, trucks and buses. They’re scary and loud, but harmless if you stay out of their way.

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Geese can be pretty mean, but the geese along the Harborwalk are fairly tame.

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I’ve seen people feeding them bits of sandwiches and chips from their hands.

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The only time you really need to be careful is when they have goslings.

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But even then, they’re so used to humans that they aren’t too belligerent unless you get too close.

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They almost seem proud to show off their babies.

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This story, as you may have guessed, hasn’t really got very much to do with Abyssinians or cats. But last week, as I was biking home along the Harborwalk, I saw a pair of geese with a new batch of goslings.

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Naturally, I stopped to take some photos of the little babies.

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We were on the Harborwalk at the stretch that is entirely fenced along the water, and the geese were walking along the inside of fence.

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Some of the babies, however, were walking on the outside of the fence!

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And one of them fell off the ledge into the water. Now, this should not have been a big deal: geese, after all can swim. And the baby was completely fine, too, swimming around and peeping up to the rest of his family. But the parents started to freak out and crawl under the fence to get to their missing gosling! Yes…under the fence. And they were too big to squeeze underneath the bottom bar of the metal fence. Of course, you would think they would simply flap their wings and fly over the fence…but it was like they’d forgotten how to fly! They just kept trying to either bash their way though the upright bars of the fence or squeeze underneath.

It was seriously like an old Warner Brothers cartoon, where Daffy Duck is falling off a cliff and smashes into the ground because he forgets he’s a duck. So, I decided to help. I started trying to scare the geese into remembering to fly. I am sure I looked ridiculous, waving my arms around and yelling “Come on, you can fly! Come on, FLY!”

Finally, I managed to get one parent, I believe the father, to fly over….

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…like this (this isn’t him).

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One baby and parent down, four babies and one parent to go.

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I started trying to shoo the babies into the water with their father. One fell into the water by himself, but the next one fell into a crevice between two of the granite stones.

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So I had to pick him up! I then held him out over the water and dropped him as softly as I could. He splashed down, unharmed, and swam over to his dad and siblings. And there was just mom and two babies still up on the wrong side of the fence. A couple of other cyclists stopped to see what I was doing and offer help. Another little baby plopped into the water on his own and there was just one left. I managed to catch it and drop it to join the rest. And only the mother goose was left on the seawall with us humans.

She was completely freaked. She could see her family in the water, but despite seeing her husband fly over, she still didn’t remember that she had wings. She kept trying to squeeze underneath the fence. I actually tried to help push her through at one point – she was so upset she let me touch her back! Finally, one of the other bikers came up with a plan: we would corner her and sort of boost her over the fence. That didn’t really work. We got her about halfway up and then she smacked the guy in the chest with her wing and he backed off. But after that, she was even more upset than before, so I just ran at her, yelling and waving my arms. At first, she just ran away from me with her wings out…

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…like this (this isn’t her). But then the light seemed to dawn and she took off and finally – finally! – flew over that damn fence.

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And at long last, the family was reunited and they swam off into the sunset.

It wasn’t til a few days later that I realised how lucky they were. It was a fairly high tide that afternoon when the first baby fell in, and the baby landed safely in water. But had it been low tide, that baby would have landed on rocks…

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…which you can see in this photo of a heron at low tide. You can also see what a long stretch of fence that is – there was no way those geese were going to be able to walk around to the unfenced part!

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I’m not going to lie, though…I did think, when I was holding the first gosling, how much fun this whole thing would have been had Jake been with me!